7 ways to drive a copywriter stark raving mad

November 9, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Miscellaneous 

Drive your copywriter madThere are all sorts of things to love about being a copywriter. It’s profitable. It can be low-stress. You have control over your schedule. You will enjoy variety in clients and projects.

But after many years of making a living writing copy, I have experienced a few things that I don’t love. Some are annoying, a few are exasperating, and one or two things have come close to making me snap.

Want to drive a copywriter mad? Here’s how to do it:

Call up a copywriter and, in a sincere voice, ask, “I have a really important project and I need a good copywriter. Can you recommend anyone?” Make sure there’s not even a hint of irony in your voice. If the copywriter reminds you that you’re talking to someone who writes copy, act confused as if that’s irrelevant. “What I’m looking for is, you know, a copywriter.”

Hire a copywriter for a project then proceed to explain how to write copy, because you just read a book about it. In fact, encourage the copywriter to buy the book and come up to speed on everything you know about copywriting and write copy just as the book describes. Because ” … the book is great. Just great. Awesome, in fact. Super awesome.”

Explain to a copywriter that your sales letter isn’t working. You have no clue what you’re doing and you need a professional to completely rewrite the letter. Then hire the copywriter and accept the copy submitted. Now, before you mail the letter, make lots of changes so it sounds more like the first letter, you know, the one that doesn’t work. Mail it. When it flops, call up the copywriter and complain that your results were terrible.

Ask a freelance copywriter to “tweak” an ad. Explain that the ad is lousy and isn’t working at all. But all you need is a “tweak.” Say you want the new ad to be completely different, and by completely different you mean you want the old ad “tweaked.” Don’t say “write a new ad,” or “overhaul the ad,” or even “revise the ad.” Keep using the word “tweak” and suggest that you don’t want to pay much even though you want an all new ad that works. Follow up with an email that uses the word “tweak” at least 3 times just to make sure the idea sinks in.

When you get copy from your copywriter, circulate it to your colleagues. Give them the copywriter’s email address and phone number so they can all independently critique the copy and provide contradictory comments. Make sure at least one of your colleagues thinks he’s a professional copywriter (because he wrote a paragraph for the company website) and will make wild and time-consuming requests like “Can you give me maybe 10 other versions of the headline?” or “How about we try a spin-off of ‘They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano’ just to see how it reads?”

Have your designer do a complete layout of a small brochure before thinking about copy. Then give the layout to your copywriter and say, “I just want you to fill in the blanks.” Make it clear that you want the copy to be short but still give details on the 137 products you offer, talk about the corporate mission, explain the year-end sale, and oh yeah, mention the new addition to the warehouse because that’s cool. “But again, keep the copy short. A couple or three paragraphs max. We don’t want to overload people with information.”

Lay down rigid rules for how your copywriter must work. Ask for at least 5 headlines then choose the worst one. Don’t let the copywriter change a word from this point forward. Then ask for subheads and lock them in. No changes. Then ask for body copy. Complain a little that the headline and subheads aren’t working well with the copy, but again, no changes. At the end of the project, tell the copywriter you really wish the project would have gone more smoothly and you think the copy could have been a little more polished.

99 percent of my clients are smart, flexible, and easy to work with. But there’s always that 1 percent who can drive you slowly insane. All these stories are true.

I know I’m not alone in this. How have people made you crazy during copywriting projects?

Related posts:

  1. 5 simple ways to become a confident copywriter

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Smart Comments

12 Comments on 7 ways to drive a copywriter stark raving mad

  1. Stephen Dean on Nov 10th, 2009 2:27 am
  2. LOL! You nailed it.

  3. MJ Logan on Nov 10th, 2009 4:15 pm
  4. Received a request to write 500 words for “Why Health Insurance Costs So Much”. The publisher stated in his copy request – “Americans don’t understand the true cost of health care and how their consumer habits affect the cost of health insurance,” Expand on this theme. … include a summary paragraph that summarizes the rest of the copy.

    I submitted my copy – 499 words which included a paragraph on why Americans don’t understand the true cost of health care.

    From the publisher – “How can you say Americans don’t understand the cost of healthcare? I don’t believe this. Also, the copy is too long. Please cut at least 100 words. The last paragraph just summarizes the rest of the copy, why repeat yourself? Please revise to meet the copy requirements.

    Just one of many…

    MJ Logan
    .-= MJ Logan’s last blog … Front Page Promo =-.

  5. Dean Rieck on Nov 10th, 2009 5:59 pm
  6. MJ,
    That doesn’t surprise me a bit. I just wrote a direct mail piece for a client who asked for aggressive copy. When I got the comments back, the client commented that they were uncomfortable with aggressive copy.

  7. Jodi Kaplan on Nov 12th, 2009 9:45 am
  8. I had one who took my copy and rewrote it so it sounded like an academic treatise. Good for insomnia, not so good for sales.

  9. Dean Rieck on Nov 12th, 2009 10:33 am
  10. Jodi,
    Yeah, I’ve been through that. It’s always someone at the company who’s a stickler for “proper” writing. And of course they maul the copy. Oh, the pain.

  11. MJ Logan on Nov 12th, 2009 11:26 am
  12. I went through a period when I did a lot of ghost writing for internet content. Most of the time, I had no idea where stuff would show up and half the time, I couldn’t find it. One publisher called me up one day, complaining that my “supposed SEO laden article” wasn’t being indexed on the search engines.

    Since I also do website development, I offered to take a look if he’d give me access to his site. After some hemming and hawing around, he finally did.

    The first thing I did was open his robots.txt file which tells the search engine spiders what not to look at. The second line was Disallow: /

    Which means, don’t index this site.

    I called him back and told him what I found. He said he thought the robot file was for keeping spammers out.

    Uh huh. And this from a guy with something like 30 web sites who couldn’t figure out why he never made any money. I should have charged him big for that one.

    .-= MJ Logan’s last blog … Front Page Promo =-.

  13. Dean Rieck on Nov 12th, 2009 11:52 am
  14. MJ,
    Yes, you should have added to your fee. It’s like that story about the handyman who fixes a squeak in a woman’s floor. He pounds a nail and the squeak is gone. He hands over his invoice and the lady says, “A hundred dollars? All you did is pound a nail!” The handyman takes back the invoice, scribbles on it, and hands it back. It reads: Pounding Nail, $1. Knowing Where to Pound, $99.

  15. Copy Slave on Nov 18th, 2009 1:20 pm
  16. 1. Ask me to write a fundrasing appeal with almost no direction 2. Do not return my phone calls during the week the project is due, or for two weeks afterward 3. Tell me later that you were forced to do a “rewrite,” but demur when ask to provide it so I can see what I could have done better. 4. Lag on payment.

  17. Dean Rieck on Nov 18th, 2009 2:10 pm
  18. Copy Slave,
    I feel your pain. It’s always clients who really want to write it themselves, but can’t admit they don’t know how. This is their way of saving face.

  19. MJ Logan on Nov 20th, 2009 1:18 pm
  20. And then there was the guy who wanted…

    … and write the copy using AP style…

    “This is too impersonal. Good copy includes personal experiences that give the reader a feeling you’ve experienced the same thing they have. This should be of a first person type of writing. Also you should address the reader with you, your etc. I’m really disappointed in this effort…”

    Someone just shoot me.

    .-= MJ Logan’s last blog … Front Page Promo =-.

  21. Dena Lerner on Dec 1st, 2009 7:11 am
  22. All too true. But the worst is when my non English speaking clients try to correct the copy’s grammer for the worst. Then they come ba k to me and say why doesn’t this sound like English? well it’s not

  23. Best Pro Copy Tips blog posts of 2009 on Dec 18th, 2009 1:04 am
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